8 Tips for Putting Your Home on the Market When You’ve Got Young Kids

Selling your house, especially when you’ve got a pack of messy, sticky, toy tornado-ing kids can be a hassle.

When researchers highlight life’s most stressful events they usually include traumatic happenings such as the death of a loved one or getting a divorce but, time and again, one routine event ends up on the list, moving.  11 percent of American adults move every year and, according to all of them who have kids, moving sucks.
While buying a new house can be exciting, selling the one you live in, especially when you’ve got a pack of messy, sticky, toy tornado-ing kids can be a real hassle. If you’re considering selling your house but are seriously stressed about how you’ll manage showings on short notice or keeping your home looking its best, check out the tips below.

1 | Get a storage unit

Kids come with an incredible amount of stuff and, no matter their minimalist fantasies, most parents find it tough to keep the clutter at bay. When you’re selling your home though it’s important that it be tidy and clutter free at all times to accommodate last minute showings. In order to cut the clutter, make a short list of the toys and equipment your kids use every day and then pack the rest in a storage unit until you’ve settled into your new home. 

2 | Take it back to neutral

Perhaps before your baby was born you spent hours designing a zig zag chevron nursery. Or maybe when you transitioned your little one to her “big kid” room you let her select hot pink paint for three walls and purple for the last. If your kid’s room screams “KID” you should probably repaint to create a more neutral space. If repainting isn’t a possibility consider at least removing all decals, posters or wooden monograms or names from the wall. When prospective buyers view your home online or in person they want to image their family living there, not yours.
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3 | Take a look from kid-level

As you set out to prepare your home for sale, consider getting down to kid-height level to spot dings or damage you might not see from above. Stickers on the wall, crayon marks under the desk or even muddy fingerprints by the door jamb are easily missed from above but will likely be spotted by a prospective buyer.  

4 | Splurge on cleaning

When you’re a parent you often don’t have time to deep clean the kitchen or steam the carpet all that frequently. Do yourself (and your home value) a favor by splurging on a deep clean a day or two before your homes goes on the market.

5 | Clear out the trunk of your car

When you’re selling your home it’s important that you be accommodating when a showing is requested. Even if the request comes in less than an hour before the proposed showing time. Or you have laundry piled in the hall or dishes piled in the sink. In a pinch, when you need the house looking good in a hurry, grab a large plastic bin or laundry basket, pick up everything that looks out of place and store it in the trunk of your car until the showing is over.

6 | Get friendly with the neighbors

Nothing is worse than getting the kids in their pajamas only to receive a last minute showing request. Instead of postponing (and possibly missing a buyer on a timeline) consider heading just down the street to a neighbors house while yours is being shown. Most showings take less than half an hour so, if you’re close by, your kiddos will be tucked into bed in no time.

7 | Budget for the cost of selling a home

While most people consider potential profit when selling their home, it’s important to think about, and plan for, the costs associated with selling. Before your house even hits the market you’ll likely have expenses associated with getting your house prepared like painting, landscaping, renting a storage unit and getting it deep cleaned.
While your house is on the market you might find yourself eating out more often as showing often occur in the early evening and, once you’re under contract and the inspection comes back you’ll likely have a handful of small fixes (and possibly some big ones) to attend to before closing. Take a look at your monthly expenses and make a plan to cut where you can in the months leading up to putting your house on the market so you’ll have extra savings to cover your costs.

8 | Price to sell

It goes without saying that when you’re selling your home you want as much return on investment as possible. When you’re thinking about pricing though, consider how much you’d be willing to pay to not to have your house on the market for longer than necessary. Pricing your home just a bit below market value has the potential to get it sold quickly, helping you move on with as little stress as possible.

Step Away From the Mess and Make Room for Things That Matter Most

It doesn’t take much to convince ourselves that every little thing we do or don’t do could break the kids. Of course it doesn’t really work that way.

It’s 10 p.m. on a Sunday night, and where was I?
Was I sleeping? No.
Meditating? No.
Indulging in a work-night movie with my husband? Nope.
I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen cabinets, giant pregnant belly, tattered pajamas, and all.
Because they were still smeared with leftover finger paint from our inkblot painting experiment two weeks ago.
Because I needed to go to work in the morning, and there would be no time to clean it up until next weekend, and three weeks is far too long to have paint on the cabinets.
Because what would everyone say if they knew? What am I teaching the kids by leaving messes? What chaos is this that we’re living in?
I rode that runaway train in my head as I gritted by teeth and washed away the remnants of a precious moment with the kids. I worked myself up as I thought about how serious all of this was.
That’s about when my husband walked in.
“I thought you were going to bed,” he said, with a mix of confusion and concern.
“I was, but this isn’t done,” I retorted, hoping that my tone would let him know that somehow this was his doing.
“You should go to bed. You’ve done enough tonight.”
“But it’s not done.”
“That’s okay.”
He was right, and I knew it, but I didn’t want to let him know that. I was tired, but I didn’t want to admit that either.
I’d like to say I’m not always this way, but moments like this do sneak up on me more than I care to admit.
I’d had a great weekend and didn’t even notice the paint there until about 9:58, when I actually had been on my way to bed. Then suddenly, it was all I could see. That and the fingerprints on the fridge and the crumbs in that little space under the cabinets that seems to serve no other purpose than collecting crumbs.
The thing that makes all this so complicated is that it’s not even about the mess. (Well, maybe it is a little, but not really.) It’s about what that mess represented in that moment.
That paint, the fingerprints, and the crumbs stood for who I am and the kind of life I’m providing for my family. I sure wasn’t thinking about how much fun my kids must have had, or the many more important things I must have been doing instead of wiping up fingerprints.
I was thinking of all the ways I wasn’t enough. So it really wasn’t about the mess at all. It was about the things that I insist on making so complicated.
The irony is that it is complicated – just not in the way we make it out to be. This moment could have been so much simpler, but I was afraid to let it be.
We can convince ourselves that we need to be on our hands and knees, scrubbing the cabinets late on a Sunday night because it feels that urgent in the same way we convince ourselves that everyone who’s ever given us a funny look or unsolicited advice absolutely knows what they’re talking about.
Maybe they do.
Maybe they have everything figured out.
Maybe they have a magic wand and a clone.
Maybe they’ve invented a self-cleaning house.
Or maybe their oven is also caked in burned pizza drippings. Maybe all of this feels complicated for them, too.
We make things so serious and scary. We worry about what everyone will think or what they’re doing. We ask questions with no answers, like what kind of adults will the children become if we leave finger paint on the cabinets another week? It doesn’t take much to convince ourselves that every little thing we do or don’t do could break the kids.
Of course it doesn’t really work that way. It’s so much more complicated than that even. All we can do is accept that we can’t control everything. We’re not all that powerful, and that’s just fine.
We don’t have the power to change the course of our children’s lives by cleaning up paint, but we do have the kind of powers that matter the most. We have the power to instantly make a scraped knee stop hurting with a superhero Band-Aid and a magic kiss.
We have the power to transform into tickle monsters and tooth fairies.
We have the power to tell the most captivating bedtime stories and whip up the most delicious rainy day peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the world has ever known.
Most importantly, we have the power to teach our children how to value what matters most.
It really can be as simple as showing up as we are, using the powers we have, and making room for those things that matter the most. The trick is giving simplicity our permission and focusing on what actually matters most to us and our family.
For me right now, what matters most is taking better care of myself so that I can be present enough to make those PB & Js, launch surprise tickle monster attacks, and enchant with bedtime stories. That means that next time I’m up late frantically scrubbing the cabinets, I should probably just go to bed.
As complicated as the world is, I can let it be simple where it can be simple by teaching our family’s most cherished values and modeling gratitude and respect for ourselves and others. Maybe that’s how to raise kids who grow up to be the kind of adults who know that the paint is still on the cabinets because they were busy doing what really matters.

Mindfulness, Meal Planning, and Other Ways I'm Failing

I’m great at the basics. I suck at the extras.

When I talk to my mom about how stressful mothering is, she smiles and says something about how things were easier in her day. Social media and modern technology make life easier and better – hello, Netflix – but they also make life more complicated and crowded. There’s so much…well, stuff.
I’m a good mom. My kids are reasonably happy, reasonably clean. They’re well-fed, provided we can all agree a steady diet of string cheese, grapes, and Ramen are sufficient to sustain junior humans. Most people think I’m a reasonably responsible adult, who (mostly) has her shit together.
But I’m not good at modern mothering.
I’m not good at doing all the Pinterest things people who throw out phrases like “life hacks” and “mindful parenting” say I’m supposed to be good at doing. I’m okay with the basics, but I stink at the extras.

For instance:

1 | Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a thing, if you didn’t know. Mindfulness means being present in the moment, making space in your life for “just being,” and taking pause when you notice stress and imbalance in your life, blah blah blah.
As a mom, I understand the importance of being present in the moment. It matters zilch that I’m frazzled, trying to fix dinner, check homework, and finish that Amazon Prime order for the stuff that we absolutely must have delivered by Tuesday when my kid wants to talk about why butterflies don’t have eyebrows.
I’m supposed to stop and take a deep, cleansing breath, right?
I’m supposed to eliminate all distractions, sit on the floor with him (that whole ‘get down on their level’ thing) and have a moment about butterfly eyebrows. I must listen attentively without letting my mind wander to burned dinner or the fact that our home life will implode if our gluten-free pretzels and three-pack of organic cotton superhero tee shirts don’t arrive on our doorstep by Tuesday.
I understand the appeal of being present and focused. I get that they’re only little once and that giving them undivided attention is important.
I still call B.S. on mindful parenting.
There are times when I just can’t be present in the moment. There are times when I don’t want to be present in the moment (like moments that anything having to do with cleaning pee or vomit) and the best-case scenario is just powering through the moment. I live in a perpetual state of imbalance, and 99 percent of the time “taking a pause” just won’t fly.

But you know what? My kids get plenty of “the moment.” We have cuddle time in the early mornings (a.k.a. what the fresh hell is this child doing in my bed again, but let’s be real, that’s what we have). When I pick them up from school, I turn off my talk radio and we talk about our day. I ask open-ended questions, and the answers give me a sweet window into what their time spent apart from me looks like. It’s seriously the best part of my day.

2 | Meal planning

I own a meal planner. I’m not sure exactly where it is right now, but I have one. I have a “My Shopping List” notepad embossed with cutesy-poo orange and teal owls. I have six Pinterest boards with meal ideas that aren’t chicken nuggets. I have a chalk board in my kitchen with “Menu” scribbled across the top.
And I can’t menu plan for shit.
I’m good for a week…sometimes, two. I peruse recipes, make lists. I chop, I prep. I produce beautifully plated, nutritious meals.   
Then life happens. The unexpected errand. The “I’m so effing tired I can’t even, and I need to call the pizza delivery guy” day. I topple off the meal planning wagon and decide I’m okay with blankly staring into my fridge every evening and serving way too many chicken nuggets.
But you know what? No matter what I serve at dinner time, we generally eat as a family. We might be sitting down to boxed macaroni, but damn it, we’re sitting down and talking.

3 | Having a mom tribe

I don’t have a mom tribe. I have acquaintances I can ask “What’s the best way to get rid of butt rash?” without feeling completely awkward. The other moms from my kids’ classrooms don’t throw shade my way or forget my name. I even have friends.
But a bona fide mom posse who knows every dirty detail about my life, from my kids’ medical issues to how often I really wash my hair? No. I’m probably in a lot of outer circles, but I don’t crave that tribe vibe closeness with other moms. And I’m good with that.  
And, my kids are doing just fine.

4 | Party planning

If I could find a way to not have birthday parties for my kids, I would. Every year, I say this will be the year we don’t do parties. Then I turn into spineless mush when my kids broach the subject. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total birthday humbug. I like cake and ice cream (duh), singing, and watching my kids open presents.
What I’m not down with is this whole theme thing that’s become so popular. See also: any event that requires competitive decorating. Staying up past midnight to make sure the pineapple goody bags are just so for my child’s mini luau? Paying a gazillion dollars for a custom cake that looks great in pictures that no one eats?
I’m the lazy mom that has my kid’s party at a place that serves crappy pizza where we’re all entertained by a giant, creepy mouse band. Judge away.
So, I suck at mindfulness, meal planning, and lots of other things moms are supposed to be good at. I’ll never be the mom who decorates pudding cups with washi tape. My kids eat too much boxed mac and cheese. They probably didn’t have a bath last night. You won’t leave one of our birthday parties using words like epic.
The things I suck at are list-worthy, but my kids are good humans. They’re kind. They’re sensitive and caring. I know life outside their suburban bubble looks different and, if I have anything to do with it, their worldview will evolve as they evolve.

Am I winning at modern mothering? Probably not. But I do know this: I’m a damn good mom raising damn good kids.

20 Ways Living with Twin Boys is Like Living in a Frat House

Party with your pants off.

1 | Nakedness 

It is the norm. Clothing is always optional and rarely is it a used unless its parent’s weekend or grand mom is coming over. The penis is overpowering and I am in the minority. The penis has a magnetic-like property that forces them to keep their hands nearby at all times.

2 | Someone is always looking for food

Whether it is ordering a pizza (or pizzas) or ordering mommy to make food, food is always on the agenda. My boys spend most of their waking hours searching out snacks and asking me to make them mac n’ cheese.

3 | The smells

None of them are pleasant. I spend more time hunting out the source of foul odors then I’d like to admit. I feel like I also did this while in college at parties. Much like today, I was always confused how boys could live that way, with those smells.

4 | Sports  

Although the sports that my twins play seem to be a bit different than their twenty-year-old counterparts, they are still just as ridiculous. Whether it is mud wrestling or flag football the end result is always the same… injuries, dirt, and fighting.

5 | Terrible dancing combined with mosh pit like moves 

I have witnessed it twice in my life, once at a fraternity house in 1998 while listening to Sugar Ray and once in my kitchen last week. Both scarred me. Both made me sad. Only one I can be held directly responsible for. Mark McGrath is on the hook for the other one.

6 | Women get sucked in by their cuteness and promises of a good time  

They leave happy they made it out alive.

7 | Toys everywhere  

From toy trains and building blocks to snowboards and X-boxes, the toys may get more expensive but the lack of concern stays the same.

8 | Farting  

It doesn’t matter if is real flatulence or a man-made noise, it still is the funniest thing they have ever heard.

9 | The bathroom smells like a urinal cake

Mainly because standing and peeing is something that takes years of practice. Sometimes even after twenty years, more practice is needed.

10 | Binge drinking

Granted four-year-olds are binge drinking juice boxes but the premise is the same.  

11 | Floor food is completely acceptable  

The Five-second-rule is more like a Five-day-rule in both homes.

12 | Mom still washes all laundry  

The socks that are stiff should never be questioned.  

13 | Expiration dates are merely a suggestion 

If it’s not curdled then it’s good to eat. It may even get turned into a game.

14 | There is so much poop talk

So much. Honestly, I don’t even think the jokes really change all that drastically in twenty years.

15 | The competitive nature of boys and twins is like no other in this world

Twin boys can literally fight about anything. From who can put their socks on fastest to who can pee the farthest, it never ends. I also once witnessed in college two guys arguing over who farted loudest. So there’s that.

16 | Every single argument ends in a physical fight

My boys have taken to headbutting each other in the face when they disagree. Likewise, so did many of my fellow college male classmates.

17 | They egg each other on to do dumb things

Just the other day I had to stop my boys from jumping off the top of their swing set. I also stopped a college friend from lighting a firecracker between his butt cheeks.

18 | There is a lower expectation of basic hygiene at both ages

In the summer months, I literally hosed my kids off before they came in the house and called it a bath. I suspect most of my college friends did the same.

19 | Both are Momma’s boys

My two will always run to me when they have a scraped knee or broken tooth and my friends always sought the advice of their moms when life got hard. Mom is and was always number one.

20 | Both have huge hearts

Despite the gross behavior and the daily assault on my olfactory nerves, my twin boys and college boys (at least the ones I knew) have huge hearts.

We Need to Stop Demeaning "Women's Work," for the Sake of Our Girls and Boys

The work that has been associated with women for years is still seen as less worthwhile than other more masculine pursuits, primarily paid employment.

My husband went fishing this morning. He came back earlier than expected, his reel having broken. He pulled it out of its bag to show me how the line had jammed, despite having used it without a hitch for the last fifteen years.
The bag is laying on the table still. It’s made of blue corduroy, with threads poking out at the corners, and the drawstring enclosure is simple but tidy. My husband’s grandmother had taught him to sew when he was a boy, and this was his first project.
Growing up, I was a voracious reader, devouring any book I could get my hands on. My favorites, however, were historical fiction novels featuring brave heroines. These books all had similar themes – a young girl, who was told she should sit still and practice her embroidery, would buck tradition and pursue unwomanly hijinks instead. I loved following their adventures, as they climbed trees and solved mysteries, all while pursuing their own path.
Underneath this theme, however, I heard another message: Women’s work is inferior. To be cool, interesting, and exciting – you should be more like a man. Staying in the kitchen is fine, sure, but only if you want to ensure no one ever writes a book about a girl like you. Like the heroines in my books, I loved climbing trees and jumping into puddles, but unlike those girls, I also loved baking cookies and playing with dolls.
The work that has been associated with women for years – raising children, sewing, knitting, cooking, baking – is still seen as less worthwhile than other more masculine pursuits, primarily paid employment. Despite the fact that many of these historically female tasks are highly skilled (have you ever actually tried to successfully embroider a pillow?), they have become cultural shorthand for mindless, unimportant toil. Despite trying to give women more options, we’ve also unintentionally continued the stereotype that women’s work is worth less than men’s.
The implications of this bias are real and measurable. Caregiving – a field primarily associated with women – is still grossly underpaid. For example, a woman working as a child care provider earns, on average $20,000 a year. A crossing guard (someone also working in a physical job that does not require higher education) earns an average of $37,000 per year. Paying women less because of the type of jobs they do causes a wage gap that harms women and their families.
Women have often been blamed for bringing the wage gap upon themselves, with critics claiming that they chose to enter into low-wage, female-dominated professions. The truth, however, may be that workers in female-dominated industries earn less simply because they are dominated by women. For example, when computer programming moved from a mixed-gender to a male-dominated profession, the pay of programmers increased. when more women start doing jobs typically associated with men – as is the case for park rangers – pay has gone down.
We do girls a disservice when we tell them that the only way they can be successful is if they become more like men. Doing so ignores the historical accomplishments of women, and their contributions to art, culture, and society that has too often been overlooked. We also do our boys a disservice. 
Twenty years ago, not many boys were learning to sew alongside their grandmothers like my husband, but perhaps they would have been better off if they had. Boys have been underperforming in school – lower grades, lower rates of college completion – for decades now. A 2013 report shows that boys actually do better in school when they are engaged in more “feminine” extracurricular activities, such as music, art, and drama, but boys often disparage these for being “un-masculine.”  
My four-year-old son often asks me when I will teach him to knit. “When you can sit still for more than five minutes at a time,” is what I think to myself, but I will cast on a few stitches and let him play around. I like that he doesn’t know this is a skill primarily associated with women, and instead just thinks of it as something neat mommy can do. I like that, if we had a daughter, teaching her to knit wouldn’t be a way of teaching her homemaking skills so she would be able to attract a husband, but rather a way to make art.
As feminists, we often parrot the line that feminism about women making their own choices – whatever those choices may be. In practice, our society still treats traditionally female work, primarily raising children, as a lesser path. Women are still punished in the workforce for having children. Mothers are less likely to be hired than men or childless women, and if they are able to get a job, they are paid less. Telling women that they have career options other than being a housewife is vitally important, but we also must start to recognizing that choices like being a stay at home mom are significant and worthwhile.
For both our girls’ and our boys’ sake, we need to stop denigrating traditionally female activities. It sends the message that although children today have more choices, the only correct choice is to pursue male-dominated interests. Instead, we need to finally start recognizing the important work that women have done for centuries and give women – and men – who pursue it the pay and recognition they deserve. All children should have the freedom to pursue their interests without fear of judgment, whether they choose to climb trees or sew, to play house or to build one, they deserve our support.

Will Artificial Intelligence End Parents’ Work-Life Struggles?

Easy access to robots (assuming they’re affordable) may impact how we approach our relationships, and create and re-create family.

Ever since the second International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots took place a few months ago, there has been a deluge of articles talking about marriage between humans and robots and how sexbots might impact marriages, for better or worse.
For every robot enthusiast, like artificial intelligent expert and Love and Sex With Robots author David Levy, who predicts human-robot marriages within in the next few decades, there’s a naysayer, like Kathleen Richardson, founder of the Campaign Against Sex Robots, who worries that “the creation of such robots will contribute to detrimental relationships between men and women, adults and children, men and men and women and women.”
Which sounds a lot like the people warning us about how marriage between interracial couples, or same-sex couples, or how the increase in divorce will ruin the institution of marriage. Actually none has ruined the institution of marriage – in fact, they’ve just added to the number of people marrying. Instead, love-based marriages, the increased desire for independence and the availability of choices, especially for women, nowadays have done enough “damage” to the institution – if you want to call it “damage,” which I don’t. Instead, they’ve helped people realize marriage isn’t the only way to live.
These are things I’ve talked about before. I’ve also talked about how robots might impact romantic relationships before, too — the movie Her beautifully asks us to question, what is a relationship? — so it doesn’t make sense to regurgitate old ideas.
But since the recent spate of articles, I’ve been thinking about other ways robots will impact us beyond sexbots, because they’re surely going to be part of your future and mine. Certainly when it comes to work; this is a given. As well as self-driving transportation of all sorts. And even if you have no desire to have sex with — let alone marry — a robot, easy access to robots (assuming they’re affordable, a big unknown but presumably not initially) may impact how we approach our relationships, and create and re-create family.

Elderly care

Say, taking care of an elderly parent. Caregiving is an essential part of society but typically seen as women’s work, thus undervalued and underpaid — if paid at all. In fact, more and more working women over the age of 50 are leaving their careers to care for an elderly family member — at great personal loss, financially and emotionally. What if a robot could do that for us? A few years ago I interviewed Christopher Ford, who made his movie Robot & Frank — about the bond between an elderly man and a robot — after watching the struggles his parents faced while caring for their elderly parents, his grandparents. Would robotic caregiving be a bad thing? Would it be better than putting an ailing parent in a nursing home? Would it free up adult children — again, overwhelmingly women— from that responsibility so they wouldn’t have to disrupt their career?

Child care

What about caring for your own child? Would you choose a robotic nanny to help raise your kids so you wouldn’t have to opt-out — or struggle with work-life issues? What if a self-driving car would pick up your kids from school and take them to their various after-school sports and activities? Would that relieve some of the parental duties, again overwhelmingly the women’s role, that make having a career and a family seem so daunting? Will having a robotic caregiver make marriages more egalitarian? Would the robotic caregiver have a gender — and will that just perpetuate gendered caregiving?

Single parenting

What if you’re a single person who wants to have a child but hasn’t found a romantic partner to have one with, or perhaps isn’t even interested in having a romantic partner; would having a robotic caregiver make your life easier, or perhaps even make you more likely to have a child on your own? And, if so, would that mean fewer people would actually choose to marry, or even cohabit, given how “there is evidence of a certain fatigue with the difficulties of dealing with people,” as Sherry Turkle, a clinical psychologist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, notes.
I think the emphasis and perhaps freakout about sexbots is obscuring other discussions about how robots likely will be intertwined in our relationships, romantic or not. Artificial intelligence is a growing part of our future, and not just when it comes to sex.
This piece was originally published on Vicki Larson’s blog OMG Chronicles.

You've Arrived! Welcome to the Wonderful World of Adulting

Congrats kids, you have made it to the promised land of bills, weight gain, and dark circles under your eyes.

When you are young, (and stupid) you can’t wait to grow up. Every single day of your young life is an inch closer to freedom and adulthood. You dream of the days where you no longer live under your parents’ roof and rule. Someday you will be out in the big, wide world, traveling, partying, living your dreams out in sunny California or in the Big Apple. Maybe once you’re fully grown you will spread those new wings and soar across the world seeing sights that once only existed for you in the pages of books.
Eventually, you will realize that adulting is none of those things. Being an adult is hard, exhausting, and not fun at all. Congrats kids, you have made it to the promised land of bills, weight gain, and dark circles under your eyes. Here are some ways you will know that you have indeed entered adulthood:

You know you are officially an adult when…

You have a job.  You are not traveling the world snapping pictures of amazing sights and selling them in some fantasy realm where you become wealthy beyond your wildest dreams. You are not the VP of Cosmo or the pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. You work retail; you hang on the lowest rung of the ladder in your advertising firm; you are a first-year teacher making pennies; you work twelve hours shifts at a hospital; you pay so much money in taxes that upon your first “real” paycheck you think this deduction is either a cruel joke or a massive mistake. It is a bit of both actually.
Meeting your own needs comes last… way last… like, after feeding the cats and scooping animals feces, last.  Your status as the center of the universe has imploded, and now you are an adult here in the real world. You are not special. There are pets to care for, a house to maintain, bills to pay, obligations at work that must be met and maybe even a spouse and kids to attend to 24-7. You don’t matter. Your mom isn’t walking through the bedroom door to ask you if you want a grilled cheese sandwich. No one cares if you eat, shower, or sleep. Welcome to the world of selflessness. Now go walk your dog and mow your lawn.
You can no longer skip carbs at a few meals and lose ten pounds. You are an adult now and losing five pounds becomes just about as difficult as learning to fly. All of a sudden everyone you know is in some sort of “bootcamp.” Bikinis are more likely to be used to wash windows. Adulthood will wreck that bikini body. Stress, late work hours, birthing tiny humans, feeding the tiny humans – all of these stages that you will pass through as you embrace adulthood will move you further and further from the bikini bod of yesteryear. Welcome to the age of the one piece.
11 pm is late as f**k and hangovers are brutal. You will know you have crossed into adulthood when you look at the clock, read that the time is 11:31, and fly into a panic dreading the thought of trying to function tomorrow. At 11 pm adults turn into grumpy pumpkins. In the event that you do stay up waaaaaaay past your bedtime and consume alcohol please know that you are going to feel the effects of this ill decision for days, maybe weeks. You are no longer able to wake up after a long night of partying, throw back a few glasses of water and some aspirin and carry on with your day. Cancel all of your plans for the next 48 hours, stupid.
You have to buy your own groceries. You schlep out to the supermarket once a week, load up your cart, spend way too much money and then you have to unload it and cook it all at some point. The whole mundane process is a total slap in the grown up face. If your mother no longer comes to your apartment on a Sunday afternoon to take you to Costco and pay for thirty boxes of Ramen Noodles… Surprise! You are a grown up!
Bills, bills, bills. If no one pays your rent or mortgage, your car insurance, health insurance, phone and internet bills or any bill for that matter, then you are probably an adult now. You are also really broke and probably pissed because there really is no solid preparation for this adulthood blow. You’re working harder than you ever imagined, living frugally and have about thirty extra bucks a week for spending. This is the grown up world now, and it is cruel.

Here are some other adulthood honorable mentions worth noting:

  • You spend a quarter of your life in a vehicle of some sorts commuting to and from work or carting tiny humans around town.
  • You social life is sad. Really sad.
  • You miss your parents… a lot.
  • You eat Kale, drink Kombucha and take a daily multivitamin.
  • Suddenly you realize that you can no longer shop at Forever 21, Aeropastale, and American Eagle.
  • You prioritize drinking water over drinking vodka.
  • You consider your pets to be your babies and you treat them as such.
  • You wake up one day and realize that you are just about half way to death.

Happy adulting guys!  Now go forth, find some youngster who thinks they have things so bad.

Debate Club: Should We Pay Kids for Chores?

Two Parent.Co writers face off about compensation for pitching in around the house.

debate club

Why I Don’t Pay My Children to Do Chores

By Kathryn Trudeau

The night my husband and I decided we were ready (ha…ready) to start our family, we went out to a diner to discuss how my career would change, how our finances would change, etc. Like most non-parents, we had a laughable list of things called “Things We’ll Never Do as Parents.”
Okay, it wasn’t a literal list, but the point remains. While many things on that list have, in fact, been committed by either myself or my husband, one thing has stuck: We do not pay our children to do chores.
Growing up, I had my own set of cleaning duties, and I was never paid to do any of them. I never felt shorted, gypped, or indentured. In fact, our home was the cleanest to ever house two young children. Scratch that. It was the cleanest home, period.
Now, as my husband and I introduce our son, who is five, to household duties, he has jumped in with both feet. He knows how to fold his socks and underwear. He helps empty the dishwasher. He can use a rag to help dry the floors after a good scrubbing. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work.”
Beyond my own experience, there is good scientific reason behind ditching the payment, and no, your house won’t turn into a trash bucket.

Payment diminishes the lesson

Paying kids to do chores eliminates any educational opportunity. The lesson of how and why to keep a clean home are replaced with a motivation for money.  You cannot teach a child to clean for the sake of cleaning when all they see are green dollar signs.
New York Times financial columnist Ron Lieber weighs in on the subject:

“At some point they’re going to get wise to the whole system. [They’re] gonna say to [their mother], “We don’t want to do the chores this week, and we don’t want to do the chores next week, and we don’t want to do the chores next month.” And then she’s in a little bit of a pickle, because the deal she set was that they get paid if they do their chores, which will [teach] them that if they don’t want the money, then they don’t have to do the chores.”

As Lieber pointed out, this pay-for-chores systems teaches kids that to escape chores, they merely have to relinquish payment. In reality, however, chores are inescapable, unless, of course, you like filth.
When your kids grow up, they will have their own houses that require cleaning. Why not set them up for life by instilling the habit of cleaning for the sake of cleaning?

Payment dampens enjoyment

Dampens enjoyment? Who is this crazy lady, and how on earth can chores be enjoyed?
In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I let our chores slide one week. We planned on spending a Saturday to rectify that. As we divided the chores, I tried to get out of kitchen duty. I had made a rather messy dinner the night before, and I didn’t want to scrub those pans.
My husband, however, actually enjoys cleaning the messiest room/pan/whatever, because he feels a sense of pride watching the transformation. If my son only focused on the money, he would lose the opportunity to take pride in his work ethic.

Payment for chores breeds entitlement

While many parents opt to pay for chores as an attempt to thwart entitlement, it actually does the opposite. It sets the stage for entitlement, because it teaches kids that everything revolves around them. It puts the child above the needs of the family. It begs the questions, “What’s in it for me?” and “What do I get out of it?”
On the flip side, “free” chores teach that everyone has a role to play and that everyone must contribute. A family is a community, not an employer-employee situation.

So how do kids learn about money?

The biggest argument in support of paying for chores is so kids will learn to manage money. But the two lessons do not have to be linked. Use chores as an opportunity to teach about cleanliness and familial responsibility. Use allowance to teach about money.
Whether you use the jar system or simply hand out cash, allowance is a great way to teach children the basics of money management. Think of allowance as a stipend, not as pay for work done. A study published in the “Journal of Economic Study” revealed that young girls ages eight to 10 who earned an allowance managed their money better than girls who did not earn an allowance.

The topic of money is always touchy. Add in children, and it’s no wonder that this topic can divide the masses so quickly. If you’ve never tried a “free” chore approach, talk with your kids about how a family is like a community that supports each other. Answer their questions, and try it out.

You still might end up with dirty socks on the floor, but that’s par for the course, right?

I Made My Kids Earn Their Allowance

By Kimberly Yavorski

Like many parents, when my kids were small I felt overwhelmed by how much there was to do. In addition to taking care of my children, I also had a home to maintain – one that was continuously trashed by said children.
I eventually came up with a way to help them understand why Mommy couldn’t play with them ALL THE TIME, and that we could all have more fun if they helped out.
We talked about how certain things needed to get done to have a healthy, happy home. I pointed out that when Mommy did all the work, she had no time for fun things, but that if they helped, we’d all have more time for fun things. They listened and nodded and were even excited about the idea of being able to do some of these very grown-up things.
I made a list of chores and gave each a point value. I made sure to have chores that the youngest could handle, such as setting the table, as well as those that the older ones could take on, such as cleaning the bathroom or the litter box. The easier chores earned one or two points, the more involved ones earned more.
Then I made a list of things that they could cash in those points for. I called them “Privilege Points.” The list included things like having a friend sleep over, screen time, and a special outing.
The chart worked (for a while, anyway), and I think it was largely due to two things. The point system worked like a game, and my children, who are a bit competitive by nature, could keep track of their points and brag about who had the most at the end of the week.
The other positive part of it all, from their point of view, is that it gave them a choice. They had the freedom to choose which chores they did and, for the most part, when they did them. They could also choose to not do any chores with the understanding that they would earn no special privileges.
Like so much of parenting, the chart evolved over time. In fact, my kids probably don’t remember this version. (I myself had forgotten it until I came across it in old files.) As the kids got older, the items on the list changed. When the topic of an allowance came up, it made logical sense to transition from “privileges” to cash.
Over the years, I have read articles extolling or condemning the concept of doing chores for cash and understand the very valid points made. Those on the yes side say that adults earn money for work they do, and children should learn that as well. The other side protests that basic life skills should be learned by everyone, that taking care of oneself and one’s surroundings is a necessary part of life, separate from “work.”

I thought back to when I first started getting an allowance. My father approached me, telling me he would give me a set amount each week for making my bed (apparently that was an issue) and watching my younger sister when my parents were out. Since I had a problem with the whole idea of forking over cash to my kids simply because they existed, this approach made sense to me. I could give them money and help them learn how to manage it. Through this, they would learn that rewards are earned, not simply handed out.
So I adjusted the plan. The objective: to complete chores with a point total equal to their age. In return, they got their weekly allowance. I continued to stress the community aspect of doing chores, how it benefited the entire family, and that everyone needed to make a contribution. Some tasks, such as caring for their own things, putting away their clothes, and clearing their dishes from the table, were expected as being a part of the household and, thus, not on the list.
This system wasn’t perfect. There were times my children came into money from part time jobs or gifts and didn’t “need” that allowance and would choose to not do their chores. Of course, that also meant they would not receive their allowance.
I don’t agree that an allowance should be completely without strings attached. I don’t want my children to think they’re entitled to anything, simply for being. I do, however, believe the ground rules matter.
I gave my kids a choice: Be a part of the family, contribute to the common good, and get to share in the financial success of the family. Or don’t, and have less cash to spend on items their allowance was meant to cover (namely “wants” as their basic needs were always covered).
It has been years since the chart was posted on our refrigerator. Every so often, someone would casually ask about it, but I no longer saw the need for it. As my kids grew into their teen years, the homework load increased dramatically, and I found – at least in our family – that teenagers don’t trash the house the way younger children do. Some of the chores became obsolete. For the most part, my kids cleaned up after themselves (sometimes with prodding) and volunteered to help with other tasks.
Keeping track of points was no longer necessary.
As young adults, my kids no longer get allowances (their part time jobs finance their social lives), but they still help out around the house. They may not always notice when something needs to be done, so I simply ask whoever happens to be in the room at the time, and the job gets done with little argument or delay.  
They all know the value of a dollar and have no expectation of receiving money they haven’t earned. Unlike some parents I know, I don’t get requests for money. Their accounts may get low, but they find a way to manage it until the next payday.
I consider this a parenting win.

Aiming For Average

Between working full-time, momming full-time, and life’s roller coaster ride of ups-and-downs, I am done feeling the guilt.

There is so much pressure to be the world’s best mom, pressure from myself, pressure from my kids, and pressure from the outside world. I have wasted so much time and energy trying to compete with all the Pinterest-perfect moms out there. Quite frankly, I am at the point now that I am sick of hearing about how great everyone else is doing and what wonderful things they are doing for their kids all the time.
It’s not that I don’t want to do these fabulous things for my kids, it’s just that I can’t keep up. Honestly, I am done feeling the pressure. Between working full-time, momming full-time, and life’s roller coaster ride of ups-and-downs, I am done feeling the guilt.
So, my new motto is: Aiming for average.  I am not a perfect mom. Hell, I don’t even think I am a really good mom. I’m average. I love my kids with all my heart. I do my very best every day to give them everything they need and make them happy, but I admit: I can’t do it all.
Let’s break it down. What is wrong with being average? What is wrong with being typical, common, or ordinary. Why do we all have to stress ourselves out and make ourselves crazy striving to be perfect? Have you ever even met someone that is actually perfect? They may appear to be, but once you get to know them, you quickly find out they have flaws like everyone else. So, I am done.
In an effort to not be confused with all those perfect moms out there, here are some things that I do that are not perfect.  These are my confessions:

  • Sometimes my kids don’t brush their teeth before going to bed.
  • I don’t make festive holiday decorations and cute crafts to put out on the front porch of the house. I just don’t want to.
  • Swimming lessons definitely count as a bath, don’t they?
  • There are times I skip pages when I read to my kids. 
  • I don’t make organic, seasonal Pinterest treats to for my kids to bring to their school birthday parties or to team sports. I buy treats at Costco, in bulk…and they are never organic.
  • Sometimes, if I don’t get all the laundry done, I Febreze my kids dirty pants before school so they don’t smell.
  • I throw out more than half of my kid’s artwork. I don’t want four million pieces of paper with two scribbles on them. I keep a few of the best and toss the rest.
  • My kids ride the bus to school. The big, yellow one that stops at the corner to pick them up. I make my kids stand outside at the bus stop, even in the winter.
  • More often than not, I just put a towel over the wet pee spot on my daughter’s sheets in the middle of the night when she has an accident.
  • I allow my daughter to go to school with her hair unbrushed and ratted up in knots. It’s not worth the fight in the morning.

Phew….I feel so much better after getting all that off my chest. I’ve come clean. I’m not perfect. I’m average.
So, am I a bad mom? I don’t think so. I’m an average, regular, normal mom. How do I navigate being an average mom? Humor. It is all I know. All I can do is laugh at the crazy because I can’t do it all. I can’t even do most of it. I’m average, and now, I’m ok with that.

No Basements or Spare Rooms: The Joys of City Living With Kids

You parents who can confidently occupy a dwelling that has more than three closets and any number of sets of stairs have my respect and awe.

I have a lot of parent friends who are making their way out of the city in favor of greener or more suburban pastures, and I get it. Though it’s possible to live in a borough of my city, New York, for a somewhat affordable amount of money, you don’t get nearly as much space as you would outside the city, for even less money.
Living in a city can be inconvenient. If you, say, have a car and like to park your car in the same spot every day, or if you don’t like to lug your groceries on the bus, or if you don’t want to think too hard about what school your kid is going to attend and whether you are zoned for it, or whether you need to move ASAP, or if you’d rather deal with rush hour behind the wheel and not in a subway car.
When you stack it up, living in the city with kids is a slog for most of us. So why do we do it?
I do it, in part, because basements and spare rooms scare the crap out of me. Look, I know I’m in the minority, but hear me out. It’s not a monsters-under-the-bed kind of fear – although when push comes to shove and I’m by myself in a large home… yeah, I can be convinced that there are otherworldly creatures lurking under bed frames and around corners. Really, though, for me it’s more of a how-do-I-fill-the-abyss thing.
I’ve written before about how I’m not so into saving stuff, so I’ve always considered small, efficiently laid out apartments to be dream living spaces. In my current apartment, there is a place for for all that I need but no more.
A house, however, demands more. You must furnish all the rooms, even the ones you hardly spend any time in, and if you’ve got a basement, a garage, an attic, then by god, you better have a bunch of boxes ready to store that you won’t look at for years, even decades.
Also, I like chasing my kid around city streets, those precarious, sometimes icy, sometimes crowded, never dull city streets. But chasing my kid around a house, through the basement and the spare rooms and the hallways, all those hallways?
On city streets, you can employ a stroller, a baby carrier, whatever, and nothing needs to be cleaned up because nothing gets rifled with or taken out in the first place. There are store windows to peer into instead of cupboards to deconstruct, and trees to stare up at instead of curtains to yank down. Managing my children in a small corner of a larger metropolis is the only way that makes sense to my compact sensibilities.
You parents who can confidently occupy a dwelling that has more than three closets and any number of sets of stairs have my respect and awe. I don’t know how you do it, how you know where everything is and where it will go? Why would you want to know such things?
How do you not feel like a child yourself wandering through an oversized Wonderland on a day to day basis? How do you vacuum that many rooms? I can hardly get it together to vacuum monthly and I live in the kind of place where if I stand in a certain spot, I can see every room.
To be fair, I grew up in a big house three and a half hours from where I live now in Brooklyn, and I loved it. My sister and I spent many an evening marching an army of Barbies around a massive basement made up of several rooms, only one of which was under-lit and terrifying.
Sometimes on Sundays, we used our dad’s Camcorder to film short experimental plays and dreadful infomercials about Tupperware in a pristine and rarely occupied living room and dining room. We ran barefoot around a backyard with swings and a hammock and easy access to all our neighbors’ yards.
I had a blast, I realize now because I wasn’t responsible for taking care of a slip of it. I could chuck handfuls of Barbie dolls into a bin at the end of the night, but I never had to scrape up the centipedes that gathered like a garnish around the perimeter of the basement carpet. I probably will never have to do that.
Maybe I will. Maybe one day, I’ll wake up, climb out of bed and immediately slam my foot against the dresser that stands just a few inches away. Maybe, the stub will be the final straw that ejects my little family from our Marie Kondo-approved urban existence out into the sprawling suburban dreamscape.
Until then, in our cozy shoebox, we remain. Someday, I’m sure, my son will buy a farm the size of two avenues and the generational living space cycle will begin again.